Cycling down the mtn with landslides and traffic
After making it to the top of the hill, we were treated to a delicious local meal of dahl baht. We were relaxed and chatted to our hosts, who rarely saw foreigners roll up on bicycles. All was well until we asked how far it was to Bataar, our destination. “45 km” easy we thought, we’ll be enjoying a shower in no time. “All down hill”, oh, that made it a bit different. Eri was especially none too pleased. Lesson #2, what goes down must come back up.
So off we went, down the hill. With an extra 20-30kgs we quickly gained momentum. Pot holes took some clever work to get around, but they were nothing compared to the rivers that flowed across the road in some sections. Our bikes got a clean and our feet were soaked. The recent rain had also created another challenge for us, landslides. In some sections the tarmac disappeared underneath us and we were riding across a muddy path of freshly fallen dirt. We did our best to ignore the rocks and boulders sitting precariously on the hill above and below us.
This was all tricky enough, but we were still sharing the road with trucks, motorbikes, kids, cows and buses. We soon figured out that communication would keep us safe, so our conversation for the next few hours consisted of us yelling out “bus”, “truck” and “motorbike”. All those that passed us seem to find the three foreigners scrambling to the edge of the road with bike and bags hilarious. It was rare if a bus went by and we received less than 15 “Namaste” greetings followed by insane giggling.
Unlike the melodic air horns on the buses and trucks, we had no way of warning any oncoming traffic of our existence. It took careful concentration to maintain a safe position on the road, particularly when coming around the blind corners on the switchbacks. As the day went on, our energy levels began to drop as did our concentration. I would gasp every now and then because I could see Gavin choosing to sit in the middle of the road when coming to one of these scary corners. That’s when one of us would suggest we rest, which was usually happily agreed to because it gave us a chance to look around and see where we were.
The scenery was amazing. The edges of the mountains were carved into hundreds of rice paddies. Below us we could make out farmers in their fields, they looked like ants in the distance.
Finally we came to the bottom of the hill. We were relived to see the land flatten out and town we were heading to sitting before us. We stopped and took pictures of a little valley, and admired the river flowing below us. What we didn’t realise was that the road we were on would drop down to the river and then climb back up the hill to our destination. By this time we had been descending for nearly four hours. Our hands were almost melded to our brakes, our bodies were frozen into shape for going down hill. The climb out of the valley to the town felt like the most excruciating 20 kms we had ever ridden. We were exhausted, hot, smelly and hungry.The short climb was so steep that even the buses coming towards us were creeping down bit by bit.
After some quiet cursing and walking our bikes up the hill, we rode into town. We felt like freaks riding in to the one street town. Every man, woman and child stopped what they were doing and stared as we slowly rolled by. Finally we found a hotel. We congratulated each other on surviving the day. Noticeably, none of us mentioned the fact that we would have to climb that 45kms to get back to Kathmandu. That was a challenge for another day. Right now, we needed a shower, food and a whole lot of sleep.