It was Diwali festival in India when I met Jo Skeats, a cyclist from London, Britain who had embarked upon a world tour on his bicycle. My friend Prasad Samant had introduced me to him and I had offered to host him at my place. He thoroughly enjoyed the festivities in Mumbai, India and of course the Diwali sweets. It was then I decided to join him in his adventurous journey for few days in the following month. So myself an Indian and Jo a British national were all set to explore Nepal on our bicycles.
So the plan was ready, we decided to start cycling from Rudrapur, Uttarakhand in India to Kathmandu in Nepal covering 907 Kms approximately in 10 days.
Preparations for the journey:
We checked for home stay, camping and hotel options available on our route. As we were checking these options with friends and on online cycling and other travel groups, we got few references who agreed to host us at their locations.
My friend Saurabh Dighe lended me his mountain bike and I was all set with my cycling gears to rock the Nepal mountains with Jo Skeats.
Our plan was to meet locals/schools/colleges/Sports groups and make them understand why Jo was on this world tour on a bicycle.
Our objective was to meet locals, stay like locals and eat like locals.That is how we get to know the new people and their culture.
On Dec 5, 2016, I left from Mumbai and reached Rudrapur Uttarakhand where Jo was already waiting for me. One local Mr.Lekhraj and his family hosted us at their residence.We were happy with their kind and unforgettable hospitality.
Day 1: On Dec 7, 2016 morning it was time to start The Journey with lot of excitement.We had to ride from Rudrapur to Bhimdatta (95 kms).We started our ride towards Banbasa border. On the way we had langar (meal) at a Gurudwara before a place called Khatima.
Meeting first Nepali:
When we reached the India-Nepal Border, locals named Ms.Usha Titikshu ( cyclist from Nepal whom I had already contacted from India) & Mr.Tara Lama Tamang welcomed us with flowers and a traditional shawl(Khaada) along with the Immigration officers. Ms. Usha is also the first female camera person in Nepalese media. This was an amazing welcome for both of us, not expected at all. Jo had never experienced such warm welcome at any other country borders that he had traveled till now.Mr.Tara Lama also arranged our stay in a 3 star hotel.
Opportunity to cycle with one legged cyclist from Nepal:
Day 2: On Dec 8, 2016 we were supposed to ride from Bhimdata to Lamki, 109Kms. Our host Ms.Usha happened to tell us about Mr.Yam Lal Rasaily, one legged cyclists who stays in Lamki, Nepal. And we could not hold ourselves back from meeting him. Mr.Yam Lal agreed to cycle with us for 15 km. But due to some technical issue in the cycle we couldn’t reach there on time and the same was postponed to next day.That night we spent at his place.
Day 3: On Dec 9, 2016 we had to travel from Lamki to Kohalpur, 95kms.This morning Mr.Yam Lal welcomed us along with the villagers, we felt like some celebrity. But the truth was, the real celebrity was Mr.Yam Lal who was a ONE LEGGED CYCLIST. We couldn’t believe that he can ride with one leg until we saw him unfixing his artificial leg and tying it to the cycle carrier.
Yes, he peddled with just One Leg which was unbelievable and just Incredible.
He rode 35 kms with us and his speed was 25kms per hour which was amazing. He has seen lots of ups and downs in his life but never gave up. I have never met anyone with such positive attitude. His aim in life is to participate in Paralympics. I hope he gets enough funding and a good coach to fulfill this dream.
The Journey continues:
We continued with our ride, that day we saw wild deer on our way.The route through the national forest was beautiful, it was a scenic ride.
Day 4: On Dec 10, 2016 we were set to ride from Kohalpur to Lamahi, 123Km. During past 3 days we were behind our schedule so we had decided to leave morning.It was a cool pleasant day with little traffic through the forests which was very thrilling. Unfortunately that afternoon, Jo realized that his cycle spokes were broken which obstructed our ride for some time but he managed to fix it. That evening we had difficulty in finding a place to halt at night.We had picked up packed food on the way so we spotted a beautiful farm near the highway and decided to pitch a tent. It was wonderful night spent under the sky gazing the stars, it was magical.
Day 5, Dec 11, 2016 Lamahi to Butwal, 118 Kms: While I was packing my stuff I heard a scream and as I ran out to see, I realized it was Jo. Apparently he had gone to the farm to attend nature’s call and got stung by a plant which lead to an infection. He was totally frustrated, but managed somehow with the first aid.The frustration continued as I found my luggage carrier screw was missing and we were worried about getting it fixed. Somehow we managed to find a local cycle shop and got it fixed. We finally moved on and started riding hard towards Butwal. We were so happy to realize after a bit of hard pedaling that we had already covered half way. We reached Butwal in the evening and started looking out for hotel room. Since it was the peak wedding season, most hotels were already full and it was a difficult task finding a room. Somehow we managed to find one. While having dinner, a Nepali family who were celebrating the premarriage ritual in the same hotel asked us to join their party. Jo and I were happy to join them and loved doing the Nepali dance with them all night. Later we decided to escape the party to get few hours of good sleep which was very much needed as the next few days were going to be fun riding inclined up hills.
Day 6: Dec 12, 2016 Butwal to Sidhartha Highway, 86kms. Butwal was too crowded and we decided to have our breakfast outside the hotel. After enjoying our parathas, we started our journey towards Pokhara, after about 15kms, we saw a gorgeous wire bridge up on the hills which was used by the villagers. The bridge was so beautifully set, Jo insisted that we should go and see it up close as the location was very scenic. We parked our bikes and went on foot to see it. The bridge was in the hills over a flowing river. It was a great opportunity to take in the beauty and get some amazing photographs. Although we loved stopping at the bridge, later we realized that we should move faster as we had a target to meet. We resumed our pedaling, the incline was really hard for me because the pace was reduced. Jo was a little bit annoyed with me as I was not using my gears properly for the incline. I was not resting on my cycle saddle and pedaling in the standing position, which is the right way to do it.The route was very scenic, but when we cycled up with so much effort, the road would wind down again and we were saying ‘ oh no, Pokhara is uphill” and we kept losing height again and we had to ride up again and again.
Somehow with all the ups and downs, we managed to complete 68kms. Since the sun was going down, we decided to stop and camp. We found a beautiful place to camp near the road. We made a deal that Jo would pitch the tent while I go and fetch some food for dinner. It was totally dark and I needed to cycle about 4kms to the nearest place I could find some food. Jo had told me to Mark the camp location as it would be difficult finding the location again in the dark. I somehow got some food.We wanted to set a camp fire but after several attempts failed to do it. Again we enjoyed our star gazing and then watched a movie on Jo’s laptop.Yes we did that ! That’s the fun, soon I felt asleep with the tiredness.
Day 7: Dec 13, 2016: Sidharth Raj Marg to Pokhara, 89kms: Pokhara was only about 89kms but inclined uphill. The only motivating factor was a full day rest on the following day. And we were going to have a full day’s rest once we reach Pokhara. About 15kms before reaching Pokhara Jo stopped at one place. From there we saw the most amazing enchanting view of the Annapurna Mountains, this was just spectacular. To add to our excitement, next thing awaited was that the next 15kms were going to be downhill. With all the excitement, we reached Pokhara at 6 and stayed at Pokhara Grand hotel.
Day 8: On Dec 14, 2016 as decided we chose not to cycle and rest for the day. But we couldn’t hold ourselves back from enjoying the beauty of mountains around us.The mountains were calling and I had to be there. So we went for a short trek at Sarangkot. We got back to the hotel at 4 and finally got some rest after taking a swim in the chilled water relaxing the tired muscles.
Day 9: Dec 15, 2016: Pokhara to Prithvi High way, 121kms: We started cycling towards Kathmandu, the final destination. It was more than 200 kms with almost 80kms uphill. So after cycling the whole day for about 121kms we finally decided to stop near highway at a good camp site near a river.
The Final Destination:
Day 10: Dec 16, 2016 – Prithvi highway to Kathmandu, 89kms.The highway seemed to be very busy and we had slowed down due to incline. After taking lots of breaks, we finally reached the top of the Kathmandu City.
When I saw the sign “Welcome to Kathmandu”, I was very happy that finally we had done it in 10 days. While entering the City, it was too dusty and we some how got out of the traffic and got into a hotel near the city.
Farewell with British friend Jo Skeats:
The next day was saddening as I was parting ways with Jo. 10 days with this young cyclist in his 20’s, who is on a world tour on his bicycle was totally exhilarating. Saying goodbye was not easy.
I flew back to India with the 10 day’s memories still afresh in my mind. It was an adventurous journey with lot of memories and learnings. It indeed is a great achievement for me which I will cherish for lifetime.