Enchanting Kathmandu

Cycling in Kathmandu in Nepal has been a far more pleasant and interesting than I expected.

It has a huge wealth of stunning religious sites from the UNESCO listed: Bodhnata Stupa,wpid-20141022064551_img_2686.jpg

Swayambhunath Stupa AKA monkey templewpid-20141013093355_img_1329.jpg

and Pushupatinath Temple.
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Then there is the remarkable temple filled Durbar Square another UNESCO listed site and these are just the icing on the cake. The city is filled with smaller temples, stupas and surrounded by yet more ancient but preserved mediaeval towns and holy sites.

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Kathmandu has more dust and pollution than almost any other city in the world, face masks are an essential fashion accessory. After living in Chamonix’s smog it felt like fresh air though!
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On my to do list here was applying for an Indian visa in the Kathmandu embassy and buying some hiking kit to supplement my biking stuff that had taken me to China.
The visa was easy, one online form and two 2″ passport photos. Then it is just a question of queuing at the embassy and paying some cash. The British pay three times what other nationalities pay which is fairly rude! I then left my application with them for a week before I can drop off my passport.
Buying outdoor kit in Kathmandu is pretty crazy, it  infested with fake North Face or Marmot gear, the latest brand to get copied is Rab but the reproduced logo is still laughably bad!
Having worked with outdoor gear for a decent while I quite enjoyed assessing what was genuine. The tell tale signs are normally the obvious ones like wonky logos, poorly printed labels with typos and nonsense English or just uninspired generic looking designs. Next are the less conclusive indicators such as the feel of fabrics, e.g. shoes with GoreTex liners should feel like they have a membrane in them. Next check for any missing ‘attention to detail’ features that you might expect or can google to check, for example reinforced crampon sections on backpacks, peaked hood brims on jackets or quality waterproof zips.
I picked up some good looking fake approach shoes for trekking then a super comfy genuine Hagloffs top, then a really nice lightweight and genuine Black Diamond winter climbing/ski touring backpack along with a couple of large waterproof stuff sacks all for about £80. Another to do list item involved this guy sorting out my crazy hair and beard, I even got a massage that seemed to mainly involve slapping my head!

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I was excited to explore the city by bike and it really was good fun weaving through the traffic finding hidden streets, off the lonely planet map and away from Thamel.

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I found ancient temples falling down, I saw stupas overgrown by trees, colourful markets and met lots of friendly people.

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These kids went crazy over my bike!

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The food has been a huge improvement in variety but sadly not on a par with neighbours in SE Asia or India.

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The local MoMos are steamed or fried dumplings filled with veg, meat or even snickers bars! The staple however is dal Bhat a meal made up of plain rice, dal, vegetable curry, pickles, bitter greens and chutney. Often a poppadom is put on top as well. The beauty of this dish is that it comes with unlimited refills so it is normal to get two full plates of rice, ideal for hungry cyclists! There are also an abundance of Indian inspired curry dishes, Chinese chowmein or noodle soups and Indian snacks both sweet and savoury!

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The city was preparing for he dwaihli festival and the streets wee decorated with bunting:

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Stalls had set up selling marigolds for the festival:

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The streets sellers were eben more colourful than normal selling paint powders:

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All the flowers added smells and colour everywhere:

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Even the dogs had been decorated:

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The next day I decided to work my legs and took a day ride on my unloaded Kinesis Tripster ATR up into the Himalayan foothills. I passed through the dusty streets to a lush green forested national park, home to Red Pandas and armed guards. The villages were littered along the road perched above endless green terraced rice paddies that stretched like 3d map contours.

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I saw huge birds soaring and gliding in the thermals, locals shouting hello or studiously ignoring me! I just kept riding uphill, it went on and on. Then I caught my first glimpse of the high Himalayas, snow capped monsters lurking in the cloud. From the map it appeared I had a clean line of sight to Everest but from this random angle I couldn’t be sure.
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I rode on to get a better view past kids playing tag and locals carrying produce back to their villages.
It then struck me that sunset was approaching and I was a long way from Kathmandu. I turned around a fled downhill,the views of amber, red and purple light casting around the landscape was just unbelievable, such a dramatic sunrise, no doubt enhanced by the Kathmandu particular pollution still lurking!

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I sped through the darkening twilight but there was no way I could make it back, I didn’t even have lights. I picked up a slower scooter to tail gate and was partly guided down. Through the forest a dog appeared from the darkness, to take an interest in me, I then realised this was no dog, but a huge monkey chasing me down a dark road. I sped up and lost it but that was certainly a first for the trip! In the city I missed the turnoff and ended up on the ring road, in the dark this is not a recommended place to ride, I followed a bus and survived until a river crossing gave me a reference point on the map allowing me to back track home!

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The city really quietens down early at night but it is maybe even more beautiful:

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Here is just another small temple at night

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The next day the bike was packed up and left in my guesthouse as I jumped on a bus to meet Marion in Pokhara. She had been travelling for a couple of weeks with Cindy in India so it was exciting to soon be hearing more about her adventures.

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