If you are. You must absolutely do this bicycle trip once in your life. This 4 days road trip brings you from Kathmandu to Bardibas via Sindhuligadhi and then on to Daman via Hetauda to complete the circuit via Naubise road to Kathmandu. You will ride on 5 of Nepal's highways and touch 10 districts covering 430 kilometers. This is present day Nepal. This is Nepal Now. Are you game?
Kathmanu – Bardibas – Hetauda – Kathmandu
Elevation range: 1300m – 530m – 1300m – 180m – 425m – 2400m – 1000m – 1300m
Total distance: 430km
Total Time: 3nights/ 4days
Day 1: Kathmandu (1300m) - Khurkot (530m) 113km
From Satdobato, Lalitpur, I began the ride that I had long planned. I looked forward to the big descend to Terai belt of Nepal. Little did I expect though the road will be completely vehicles free. The ongoing Terai bandhs had caused motorists to stay off the roads leading to Terai. After a short climb to Dhulikhel, I dropped 800 vertical meters, on smooth new asphalt as I swooped down the mountainside. One switchback after another, and into lush green valley full of flowers and subtropical vegetation. I made it to Nepalthok in 2 hours and thought that Sindhuli would be near as well.
After the exhilarating run down the mountain side, scorching sun and the humid weather of Terai landscape was waiting to greet me. Cyclist’s worst nightmare has to be the hot weather. I certainly didn’t do my homework before embarking on a journey of this feat. Late in the game I realized that I was losing way too much energy due to humidity while peddling hard to cover the distance. I had planned to reach Sindhuligadhi in 3 to 4 hours from Nepalthok but I had a daunting uphill ahead of me. Having given myself a leisurely 2-hour break in Mangaltar, I started my onward journey to Sindhuligadhi during mid day’s Sun. I could not help but take frequent breaks to complete the climb to Sindhuligadhi. I started seeing mirage and the uphill and windy road seemed to have no end.
Each corner-end would extend into seemingly another several hundred meters uphill road and almost mocking me to give up and say “I quit.” But I didn’t give up and continued to push with all my might. The final section just before Khurkot threw another 9 hairpin bends making it the most challenging road ride I have ever done. I kept reminding myself, “If you could do Delhi-Kathmandu ride, you could do this.” By 5 pm in the afternoon, I was certain I would not make it to Gadhi as I had only reached Khurkot (530m) and I still had to cover 77 km more had I wanted to reach Sindhuligadhi. I decided to call it a day albeit in a slightly defeated sense. I ate some food at a local hut and crashed like a log.
Day 2: Khorkot-Khanikharka(1000m)-Sindhuli(1300m)-Bardibas(180m)75km
The first big climb began from a couple of kilometers from Khurkot and wounded upwards into the green mountains to Khanikharka and then eventually to Sindhuligadhi. The wee hour start made riding a great fun with a real endurance test. I managed the first 30-kilometer ride quite good with an 800meter ascent nonstop.
By 10 am, I was at 1300 meters high before the descent; I’m sitting atop the hill, a pretty spot surrounded by the Sindhuligadhi, a historical fort which is famous for the battle between the then Gurkha soldiers and the British army headed by captain Kinloch. The Gurkhas had defeated the British army then. This is the history behind Sindhuligadhi.
After a breakfast atop Gadi, I rolled downhill like a child who just got his first bike. I have to tell you the feeling was one of the best since I began my journey. One switchback after another, winding down the hill was just amazing. I didn’t want this downhill to end-ever!
One hour of downhill quickly brought me to the flat lands of Terai. My real struggle began here as the heat was sucking every moisture out of my body.
I had to stop at every rivulet I could find to cool off and bring my body temperatures down. I was fearful of having a heat Stroke. I Reached Bardibas which is barely 180 meters above sea level around 5 pm. The heat sapped my energy thoroughly so I decided to stop here. I checked into to Hotel Gautam which was pretty decent for a rough cyclist. I decided to reward myself with a chilled beer and a cold shower. Which, I felt, I thoroughly earned.
Day 3: Bardibas(180m)-Nijgadh-Hetauda(425m) 130km
I associate summer with an outing in the mountains to enjoy the cools. I never thought I would be cycling in the heat of Terai during Summer. Call me stupid if you like. Well, now I can safely say that “I will not ride in Terai in Summer, ever again.” The heat is so intense that you feel as if you are being thrown into a blast furnace. As you peddle on the heat emitting sizzling tarred road, your tires almost melt. You feel so hopeless in the face of the onslaught of the midday heat that you almost lose your memory and go into a state nausea. The human body is limited to bear only a certain amount of heat and after that it is just too much.
And that’s what exactly happened to me. My fear of having a heat stroke became a reality. My imagination of riding through the cool and isolated “Char Kose Jhadi” section of the Mahendra highway turned out to be a nightmare. The isolation became my enemy as I could not find anywhere to refill my bottle or cool my body off. I wanted to get out of this isolated section and find some oasis soon if I wanted to survive this hell. I continued to push hard to get out of the jungle. After pushing myself for 4 hours, my body finally took its toll and succumbed to heat stroke. Luckily, I saw an abandoned highway army temporary post and made it my shelter to for the next 3 hours. Never before have I appreciated a makeshift shelter that much. After the rest I felt little better. I gathered myself and decided to push towards Nijgadh which was 80km from Bardibas. After the heat incident, all I can remember was gasping for water, craving for food and a cool shelter, and Nijgadh didn’t disappoint me. If it weren’t for the small bamboo cottage restaurant, I would have never had the courage to continue to Hetauda. Cool it was in the cottage, and the best thing was the food. Definitely the best chicken roast set I’ve ever had in Nepal. Rested in the hut untill 5pm thinking it would be way better to ride after the sun down. I Reached Pathlaya by 6 and then continued to Hetauda which was still 30km from there. I rode through the darkness as I didn’t have any lights(I was not planning on riding at night) which I found still enjoyable rather than the riding in the heat. Reaching Hetauda around 8pm was one hell of an experience. All you see is the distant light of the moon the whole way. Checked into a budget hotel near the bus stand and the rest is something I vaguely remember.
I was weak when I got up and had thought that my riding was over especially when there is an ascent to Daman. It is a sheer 2000 meter climb and you have no excuse out here. So I took a bus from Hetauda to Daman thinking that I would do the downhill only. But as you sit in the bus and the road goes by, a feeling of restlessness comes inside you. Something just doesn’t feel right and you know you have to get out and start riding.
So after the first 40 km of bus ride, I decided to get out of the bus and ride rest of the road again. Believe me, it has never worked so perfectly than this. The climb was insane. You just go up and up. A pure test of endurance I would say. A 50 km sheer climb to Daman from Bhainse.
I didn’t regret a single moment because I knew what goes up, has to go down, and that's what I had mentally prepared myself for. From Daman at an elevation of about 2400 meters, I rode the best ride of my life. For the first time during this trip, I reached for my helmet and pumped up myself for the downhill. Rushing down the hills and other valleys and onto ridges for the next 55 km to Naubise at 1000 meters--quite a ride. Absolute stoked I was to get to do this. It was all about speed and skill. 30k an hour on the sharpest bends is a real test of your riding skill. A split second of mistake can end you up in a bad situation.
I Reached Naubise by 2pm just in time for a hearty lunch. After the lunch, I continued riding to Kathmandu. Now the ride from Naubise to Kathmandu was a total contrast to what I had ridden earlier, packed with heavy trucks, buses, cars and motorbikes, the road was at its worst. Pollution and rash driving at its best, and you can do nothing about it. At Nagdhunga pass though, I am greeted by the cool breeze of Kathmandu valley saying “Welcome Home.”
Story & Rider: Aarniko Piya
Editor: Sunil C. Sharma