Lhasa to Kathmandu Bike Ride – The Full Trip (part 3)

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RONGBUK TO KATHMANDU – the final ride!

RONGBUKto TINGIRI 52.29km Total Ascent 686m. Total Descent 928m

So after all the excitement of spending the last 2 nights within view of Mt Everest we kind of had to remind ourselves that we still had 3 days left to cycle! Today would also be our last day off road before rejoining the “Friendship Highway”. The group was a bit split as to where to actually start the ride from this morning. We had been dangled a carrot in the shape of hot springs not far from our next stop in Tingiri but only if we arrived by about 3.30pm which meant having to ride the first pass in the bus. Given that we had not had a proper shower for 3 days and were unsure what the standard of our next guesthouse would be like (FYI it was not good)! I was pretty in need of a wash so missing out part of the trip didn’t really bother me! Others were more determined to cycle as much of the route as possible so Mangal, our ever accommodating guide, did a great job of keeping everybody happy and sorting out back up that meant those who wanted to could cycle and those who wanted to miss the first part could ride in the bus. Organising a big group of varying abilities and desires is always hard but he did a great job! So for me I got back on the bike at the top and had one of the best days riding downhill over bumpy off road amidst some of the most amazing scenery ever. With the Himalayas in the background and the sun shining bright we followed each other at full speed. Twisting and turning and overtaking where we could. It was amazing and definitely one of my most fun days.

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The beautiful landscape that surrounded us all day

The others caught up with us in time to lunch together and then we rode the final few kilometres to our guesthouse as a group. When we got there we were super excited about the prospect of a “hot spring” bath as yet again there were no showers or hot water. However when we got to the “hot springs” our excitement was slightly tempered! The outside spring (which Mangal assured us the last time he was there was really nice?) turned out to be pretty scummy with the addition of a few naked Tibetans? So we opted for the indoor “spring” which was not as big and we had to wait for 30 minutes for it to fill up! I think the saying that best describes the next scene is “what goes on in Tibet, stays in Tibet”! Basically it was me and Stephanie and 8 guys in a “hot spring” (underwear and swimsuits on of course) drinking beer! Happily we implied a photo ban! Enough Said……….

TINGIRI TO NYALAM 96.91km Total Ascend 1127m. Total descend 1953m

So today is our last day in Tibet. We have the usual discussions about where to start cycling from as to do the full distance is just not possible. I opt to start with the guys today which means we have two passes to climb (Lalung La 4950m, and Shung La 5200m) before what should be a fantastic downhill which will eventually lead us all the way back to Nepal. Mangal does warn us though that it is very windy and the lighter cyclists might want to put some rocks in our pockets! (I should have taken his advice!) The first pass I cycle quite comfortably. There is a small downhill in between and then it’s uphill again for the final time! It would have been fine if it wasn’t for the wind! I’m normally slow and steady on the uphill but with the wind I feel like I am going backwards! I actually didn’t feel that fatigued (yet?) but it just felt impossible to go any quicker? It was like somebody had their hand against my helmet and was pushing me back down. When I finally made it to the top it was with great relief! The Chinese tourist who immediately came looking for a photo was told in not too many words where she could go! (In hindsight I feel bad – But I mean WTF!!!).

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A slow and steady gradient but feels like going backwards in the wind!  At least the view makes up for it……!

After lunch on the bus to shelter from the wind it was time for the “downhill”? In typical Tibet style this was not really all downhill but a bit of downhill and then rolling hills up and down. OMG! I think this is the closest I came in the whole trip to actually chucking it in! It was so hard! The wind was strong you had to put in serious effort even on the downhill and the flat and uphill parts were mental!  We still had over 60km to ride but I felt like I was going nowhere.  I was comforted to know that most of the others felt exactly the same way!  With every bend up ahead I kept thinking that “as soon as I get round that the wind will drop”? But no luck.  The wind followed us all the way to Nyalam.  When we finally got there I was just about at the end of my endurance.  Despite everything we had already achieved this felt like the toughest day so far!  As this was our last day in Tibet it would also be our last night with all our Tibetan helpers.  They cooked up an absolute storm for dinner which was must appreciated and we rewarded them and ourselves with beer!  It felt like a fitting way to end the Tibetan part of our journey!

 NYALAM TO DUHULIKEL 61km plus bus ride. Total ascent 322m Total descent 3044m!!
So this is our last proper cycling day but it’s super laid back and easy!  Today “downhill” actually means DOWNHILL and in total we drop over 3000m in altitude! It’s a slow start to the morning as we negotiate our way through various check points on route to the border with Nepal.  What’s immediately obvious is the change in landscape and how quickly the terrain changes from the somewhat rugged yet beautiful Tibetan landscape to the lush green valleys of Nepal.  It was stunning!
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Enjoying the lush green landscape of the ride down into Nepal

We all enjoyed cycling as a group and stopping to take lots of photos.  We were delayed a little bit at the border but nothing too drastic and before long we were back in Nepal.  What also becomes obvious then is that this is where the Chinese infrastructure stops and the roads become, well to be honest, very much off road!  With more descent ahead of us we turn back on our suspension on our mountain bikes and pick our way through the busy traffic.  As we head out of the border town we can pick up the speed a bit more and it’s all fun!  I am suddenly struck by the realisation that this trip will be ending soon and I simply not ready to stop!  We stopped for a late lunch at a resort by the river called Borderlands and I felt like I had died and gone to heaven!  The weather was warm again, the surroundings were stunning in their beauty and tranquility, the food (and the beer) were amazing and the company fantastic!  I really didn’t want this trip to end!

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Such a beautiful and peaceful spot for lunch.  Feels like paradise……..!

That was the end of the cycling for the day so after lunch we packed the bikes on the roof of the bus (not me personally of course) and headed off for Duhulikel.  We all sat quiet on the bus our noses pressed to the windows as we twist and turned through beautiful, lush green valleys with rice paddies cut into the hillside!  The difference in the landscape in only a day was incredible!

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Crazy Nepal roads and buses!

 

An overwhelming feeling of melancholic happiness (if there is such an emotion?) came over me.  It left me feeling extremely peaceful and grateful for everything that I had seen!

 

DUHULIKEL to KATHMANDU – The final ride!!!!

After an amazing nights sleep in a proper hotel that felt like pure luxury we awoke at breakfast clean and refreshed.  Many of us were struggling with the thought of getting back into our dirty, sweaty cycling gear (I ran out of clean clothes about 3 days ago)!  We only had about 25km to cycle today.  We were to cycle to Kathmandu via Bahtkapur which is an old town just outside and very traditional.  Here we would take a tour around Durbar Sq and eat lunch before riding all the way back into Kathmandu.
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Durbar Square in Bahtkapur  

 

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Trying my hand at pottery – Badly!
Feeling both happy and sad at the same time I tried as best I could to absorb as much of this last day as possible.  Despite the cycling being short and “easy” I managed to both get a puncture and also crash out and fall over the handle bars of my bike!  Maybe I was concentrating a bit too much on my surroundings and not enough on the actual cycling but the Indian women who helped pick me up were very nice!  I assured them I was fine (which I was) but I knew I was going to awaken tomorrow with a cracking bruise on my hip – and I did!

So that was that!  With the exception of myself we all just about made it back to the guesthouse through the crazy Kathmandu traffic in one piece! Arriving back and saying goodbye to our bikes it was difficult to comprehend what we had achieved.  Even writing this now I’m not sure I truly I appreciate the journey we took.  Everybody we met along the way was totally in awe that we were cycling it!   I think it’s the kind of thing that might hit me months from now when I am back in the routine of everyday life? But I do realise how lucky I am! All that was left to do now was go out for our ‘CELEBRATION’ dinner and our last as a group!  I won’t bore you with all the details but yes there was beer! There was also Nepalese rice wine called Raksi and as I recall a fair bit of vodka! We ate, drank and danced! And then we drank and danced some more at a nightclub called ‘Fire and Ice’ to the wee small hours!  And yes I did have a hangover in the morning but I think that I earned it…….!

 

I was on an Exodus/ Intrepid trip booked in the UK but similar trips are available to book in Nepal.  For a great Mountain Biking company in Nepal check out http://www.elyak.com for local guides in Nepal and Tibet.

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